Are you visiting San Francisco with kids or is this on your bucket list? Our family loves San Francisco! It is such a great destination to visit for the whole family. This city is perfect for a weekend getaway or a long family vacation.
With a large city like San Francisco, it can be confusing. There are so many things to do. What are the top things to do in San Francisco with kids?
As a regular to San Francisco and with some locals’ guidance, we share the top things to do in San Francisco with kids.
Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids
Golden Gate Bridge
Let’s start with the landmark of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge! This bridge is part of the National Park in Golden Gate Park. This is one of the must do’s for any visitor (young or young at heart). There are a lot of ways you can explore the Golden Gate Bridge.
Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge: The easiest way to see the Golden Gate Bridge is to just drive over it. This is a fun experience just driving over the bridge. When you leave San Francisco, there is a viewing area immediately on your right (after the bridge).
This is a great spot to get a picture with the Golden Gate Bridge behind you. This is a huge tourist spot, so you will see a lot of people. It is still a great spot to see the city scape and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge: A lot of visitors like to walk over the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a leisure walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can certainly do this option. It is a longer walk and up hill and then down hill (aka a bridge) so make sure your kids are up for it, before heading out to walk the bridge.
Bike over the Golden Gate Bridge: If you have older kids, this is one of my favorite ways to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. You can rent a bike or even take a tour. We like to rent a bike, so we can see the city (Presidio, Nob Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf) and experience the Golden Gate Bridge on our time schedule. You can rent the bikes by the hour or by the day.
Here is a video from our experience of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marine Mammal Center (our next top thing to do).
Marine Mammal Center
We love finding animal adventures during our travels. My local expert took us to the Marine Mammal Center on our last trip to San Francisco. We loved it.
The Marine Mammal Center is just north of San Francisco. This is a great activity to combine with your walk or drive of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marine Mammal Center is open most days, except holidays and is free.
This center has a lot of sea lions. You may even get lucky and see some pups (if your visit from February-May). You can also see a bit of behind the scenes with the animals, including prepping the food and vet time.
It was about an 1-2 hour experience, but we all enjoyed it and would go back again.
The epic touristy area in San Francisco is the Fisherman’s Wharf. This area is down by San Francisco Bay. It is super touristy, but a lot of fun. You can get amazing clam chowder in a bread bowl at outdoor vendors for an inexpensive price. You can also sit down at a restaurant for a fresh seafood dinner, right on the water.
This is also a popular spot for shopping and attractions. There are several attractions in this area, including Alcatraz ferry. Before you book Alcatraz in San Francisco for kids, scroll down to the bottom of this Top Things to Do in San Francisco with kids. This one made my skip list!
There are a lot of kid-friendly things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf including visiting the sea lions at Pier 39, eating ice cream at Ghirardelli and riding the cable car.
Pier 39 for Sea Lion FUN!
In the bay area, we have to highlight Pier 39 for sea lion fun. We visit Pier 39 on every single trip to San Francisco with kids! In Fisherman’s Wharf area, look for Pier 39. Really, you can just follow the sounds of the sea lions. LOL!
In this area, there are some floating docks in the water. This is the regular hang out for sea lions in San Francisco. You can see the sea lions swim up to these docks. It is always fun to watch them climb up onto the dock and find a spot. These docks are usually filled with sea lions.
You can just stand there and watch the sea lions and pups. Make sure you have your camera out for some photo ops!
If you want another family friendly activity, you can visit the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. We usually skip this attraction, but it is quite popular for visitors.
Cable Car Ride or Just a Pic!
While you are down in Fisherman’s Wharf, you can walk over to the start of the cable car. With kids, you may just want to get a picture on the cable car. There is a spot that you can do just that.
If you are adventurous, you can buy a ticket and ride the cable car up the hill. Keep in mind, this car moves and you often are just handing off the side. You may want to ride the cable car when the kids are a bit older. It is a fun adventure.
We like to ride the cable car from the bay up to Lombard Street. This is the wacky curved street in San Francisco. You probably have seen this Lombard Street in the movies.
We will hop on the cable car and ride it up to Lombard Street. We would then hop off and explore this street at bit, before hopping back on the cable car to head back down.
If your kids loved the cable cars, you may also want to visit the cable car museum. You can bring some learning into your San Francisco vacation.
One of the hidden gems in San Francisco is concrete slides. These are popular with locals, but most visitors do not know they exist or cannot find them. There are several concrete slides throughout San Francisco.
Our favorite is in Seward Mini Park. You would totally miss this park. It is a small park, right in the middle of a neighborhood.
This park has two slides made from concrete. These slides were built in 1973 by 14-year-old Kim Clark. They had a contest and this young girl won the contest with her design of the concrete slides. You can actually ride these slides.
The slides are steep. You do walk up steps to the top. You then grab a piece of card board and hop on. Past visitors leave card board boxes there for the next visitor to use.
The concrete slides are one of our favorite fun things to do in this city. We spent over an hour there going down them again and again and again. They are a blast!
The address for the Steward Mini Park is 70 Corwin St San Francisco, CA 94114. Since it is in a neighborhood, with houses on either side, they do have set hours for the park. The hours are 6 AM-10 PM.
There are other concrete slides in San Francisco, but this one is our favorite.
Here is a video from Steward Mini Park concrete slides (including a POV of the slide) and our sailboat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge. This is our next top thing to do in San Francisco with kids.
Sailboat Ride Under the Golden Gate Bridge
One our last visit to San Francisco, we booked a catamaran sailboat trip. This excursion went past the sea lions at Pier 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge. We even went underneath the bridge, around Alcatraz, and back to the dock. It was an incredible trip! Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge up close and San Francisco in the distance was an incredible experience.
They even provided jackets (if the weather was cooler). You may also get wet, so the jackets help keep you dry and warm. You can stay inside or wander outside on the deck of the catamaran. They may even put you to work!
They let my daughter steer the boat a bit, as we left the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an amazing pic having her be the captain with the bridge in the background.
We loved this experience and will certainly book this excursion again.
A must do in San Francisco with kids is Lombard Street. This is a fun activity for kids of all ages and it is one of the free things to do in this city.
This is the “Crookedest Street in the World”. If you are brave enough, you can actually drive down it. We like to drive down it, but we also like to walk down it. You can get some really fun pictures walking down this street.
Don’t worry, they have sidewalks, so you are not actually walking down the center of the street. Just remember if you walk down, you have to walk back up the huge hill!
If you happen to make your plans around Easter to San Francisco with kids, be sure you plan to visit Lombard Street on Easter Day. They have the craziest race called Bring Your Own Big Wheel. There is actually a race down Lombard Street with Big Wheels. Yep, I did say Big Wheels. You kids are sure to win this one.
While you are down at the bay, you may want to visit the original Ghirardelli. This quaint ice cream shop is the original location for Ghirardelli chocolate and factory. Ice cream? Yes, please!
You can get a scoop of ice cream, a sundae, or even a milk shake. You can sit down in the soda shop and enjoy your ice cream at Ghirardelli or you can shop around the plaza. There are several stores right in this location. We sometimes like to take our ice cream outside and watch the swimmers at the swim club on the bay. It is fun to see them swim laps (even in the cold weather).
We also like to get ice cream at Ghirardelli and ride the cable car up to Lombard Street. These two experiences are near each other, so it makes sense to do them both in one day.
You can even do some shopping at Ghirardelli Square after your ice cream treats.
We have a few honorable mentions for things to do in San Francisco with kids.
- California Academy of Sciences: If your kids love science, you may want to pop over to Golden Gate Park to explore this museum filled with science.
- Chinatown: For older kids and teens, spend an afternoon in Chinatown. It is such an amazing experience!
- The Exploratorium: Another hands on museum filled with science and learning is The Exploratorium.
- San Francisco Zoo: If you love animals in your family, you may want to spend a day at the San Francisco Zoo.
- Fortune Cookie Factory: For older kids and teens, you may want to take a tour of the Fortune Cookie Factory in Golden Gate Park. Come see how they make 10,000 fortune cookies every day.
Things to Skip in San Francisco with Kids
There are a few things in San Francisco that are popular tourist destinations. However, they are not the best for kids. Here are a few things I would skip in San Francisco with kids.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in San Francisco is Alcatraz on Alcatraz Island. This old prison is on an island, so you take a ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz.
For most kids, this is super boring. The ferry is kinda fun, but then you get to a prison. At Alcatraz, you just walk around with a tour. Most kids get so bored by this trip and it is a little pricey. Just skip this one with the kids.
The Walt Disney Family Museum
I am a huge Disney fan! One of my bucket list items was going to the The Walt Disney Family Museum. For me, it was an incredible experience. However, for kids…not so exciting!
It is a museum and about Walt Disney’s life. It is not Disney World or Disneyland, so not a lot of super exciting things for kids. I would skip this one, too.
Planning Tips for San Francisco with Kids
I wanted to share a few planning tips for your trip to San Francisco with kids. Let’s dive into my favorite insider tip!
Call Out to Karl
San Francisco can often get foggy, especially in the summer months. It is pretty cool when the fog just covers the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.
If you see this fog roll in, call out to it. The fogs name is Karl. Yep, the fog has a name. Actually, Karl has its own Twitter account, too. Your kids will love calling out to Karl during your visit to San Francisco.
The weather in San Francisco can be surprising. We always recommend wearing layers. It may be sunny out, but it could get windy at Fisherman’s Wharf. If the fog rolls in, it could change from warm to cool rather quickly.
Be sure you check the weather, before your trip. You still want to pack and wear layers, just in case the weather changes during your day of fun.
Most adventures in San Francisco with kids can be booked once your arrive. You do not have to make advanced reservations for dining or book a bike tour.
These are all activities you can sign up for once you arrive. If you decide to book a catamaran trip, you do want to book this before you leave. These type excursions do book up early. If you have any special excursions, be sure you book them before you leave home.
These are our favorite things to do in San Francisco with kids! There are also a lot of destinations to visit right outside San Francisco. You may want to plan a day road trip. Our favorite day trips include Muir Woods, Sausalito, Carmel-By-Sea, and Big Sur. These are all destinations that allow your kids to just play.
We hope these things to do in San Francisco with kids helps you plan your family vacation.